Lynda Graham opening the awards ‘do’
Last Friday afternoon I was lucky enough to attend the UKLA Awards with our lovely author Nicola O’Byrne, whose equally lovely Open Very Carefully had won a ‘Highly Commended’ placing in the 3-6yrs category (Jon Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat won). This was the first time EVER such a placing had been awarded, so it was a bit of a double-thrill. Judge Polly Atkinson said of the book:
“A fantastic, exciting interactive picture book, which has the potential to delight and scare you at the same time. If you dare to turn the pages you will come across an anarchic crocodile who invades a cosy traditional tale with the intention of causing trouble. Where will it all end? Read on if you’re brave enough.”
What makes these awards special is that they’re chosen entirely by teachers – the lot … longlisting … shortlisting … everything! And what was equally special was seeing the care and attention the teachers on the panel gave to each and every book – you really got the impression these books had EARNED their place. They’d been examined from every angle and found worthy. The judging panel members try all the books out on their classes (we were treated to some excellent videos of the children interacting with the books – good for the soul! No artifice, no agenda – just what they liked best about the stories/illustrations) so they have firsthand experience of what works when reading to or with children, and what doesn’t.
What was also excellent to see and hear was the enthusiasm that teachers had for great new children’s books and, given the demands on their time with other areas of the curriculum, marking, planning, etc their KNOWLEDGE of children’s literature. Both classic and modern. They were passionate about it – its quality, the children’s access to it, how it was taught … these things mattered to each and every one of them. A great deal. So, it wasn’t only uplifting to see Nicky’s wonderful book be highly commended – it was uplifting to see it being highly commended by wonderful people who care, and know, so much about wonderful books.
AND we got to sit next to Carnegie medal winner Kevin Brooks. AND I have to admit, we squealed a bit with excitement. Well, not so much ‘squealed’ as we did one of those open-mouthed-gesture-frantically-with-the-eyes-at-who-is-sitting-next-to-us-gasp-things. Okay, we squealed. AND he was very nice. AND patient about both the squealing and the selfie.
I’d like to thank Lynda Graham and Joy Court for taking such excellent care of us – and for every teacher at the awards ceremony for clearly caring so much about their pupils and what (and how!) they were reading. And congratulations, Nicky – it was such a fun evening!!
You can find more information on UKLA and the UKLA Awards here. Open Very Carefully is available in paperback now – you can order it online here or take a look inside below. And if you’d like to stay up to date with all of our book news, you can sign up to our books newsletter here.